Wells Fargo Home Mortgage employees - the CEO among them - helped Habitat for Humanity finish work Tuesday on its 100,000th home for impoverished families, on West 134th Street in Harlem.
A dozen or so employees of the Des Moines-based Wells unit painted walls and hung doors at a vacant 10-unit brick apartment building.
"This is a great opportunity for our team members to get together to support housing," said Mark Oman, chairman and chief executive officer. "We think everybody deserves safe, affordable, decent housing."
As he spoke, his wife, Jill, was painting in the backyard of the Harlem property, having done sheet-rock work earlier in the morning. Most of the Wells employees were to work through the week on volunteer projects in New York, but the Omans left Tuesday afternoon.
Though the banking company has no branches in New York, the mortgage unit lends and has employees there. Wells Fargo employees have helped build or repair thousands of homes for low-income families through its relationship with Habitat for Humanity, the company said.
Habitat for Humanity is also refurbishing another 10-unit Harlem property and 12 single-family houses in Brooklyn this week. The efforts are part of the Jimmy Carter Work Project, an annual weeklong project during which former President Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter work on houses to bolster volunteerism and publicize Habitat for Humanity.
The Jimmy Carter project, which started in 1984, is also working this week on homes in Jacksonville, Fla., and in Sumter County, Ga., where the former President lives. Habitat for Humanity, which is based in Americus, Ga., was founded in 1976 with the goal of eliminating poverty housing.
The Wells employees were working in Harlem under the auspices of the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation, a charity arm of the mortgage unit that funds affordable housing efforts and encourages Wells employees to volunteer.
Jorge Valencia, a business development manager at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage who is president of the foundation, said it started work in Brooklyn this week on its 1,000th home - a target set when it was founded in 1993.
Wells Fargo encourages employee volunteerism through several programs, including one that contributes $2,500 to local Habitat for Humanity affiliates when a Wells employee spends a Saturday helping to build a house, Mr. Valencia said.
Mr. Oman said Wells Fargo, as one of the country's largest mortgage originators and servicers, can help low-income families and communities by creating affordable housing.
"We think it's important to give back to the communities, and we also think it's important to give employees the opportunity to volunteer," said Mr. Oman.
"We're involved in housing," said Mr. Oman. "That's our chosen occupation, and it's important that we help people achieve their goal of homeownership where it otherwise might not be possible."